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‘Keeping active is my way of life’

Athletic Hall of Fame inductee inspires students, neighbors

Created date

April 24th, 2012

American journalist and President John Adams great grandson Henry Adams once wrote, A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops. It s as if Adams knew teacher and coach Roger Cole, who for 31 years influenced the lives of his students in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Even now, Roger, who lives at Ashby Ponds, the Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., continues to inspire his former students more than 20 years since his retirement. I loved teaching and developed a great rapport with my students, he says. That s really what makes coaching and teaching so rewarding and worthwhile.

Finding his destiny

Over the course of his career, Roger taught both physical education and biology, coached almost every high school sport, led many of his football teams to district championships, and served as director of student activities and athletic director. Biology was a lot of fun to teach, he says. I love the moment when you see the lights go on the moment when it all begins to make sense. And physical education gave me the opportunity to instruct on a wide variety of lifetime sports activities such as archery and running as well as team sports. Roger spent the bulk of his career at McLean High School, in Fairfax County. Last fall the school honored his achievements with his induction into the McLean High School Athletic Hall of Fame. It was very nice to be recognized, he says. We developed a very good program at McLean. I took many coaches under my wing during those years. I was very happy to see that my assistant director was also honored. Roger continues to visit McLean High School, where his legacy thrives. In fact, the most recently retired athletic director is a former tennis coach Roger hired during his tenure.

Lasting impression

Keeping up with his former students and coaches is a habit Roger won t soon break. For the last 35 years, he s been going to the same dentist, a former student who played halfback for him at Marshall High School, where Roger served as the school s first head football coach. He sent me a letter years ago, letting me know he had become a dentist, Roger says. He invited me to come and let him try out his skills on me. I ve been his patient ever since. Roger also keeps stacks of letters he has received from his students over the years. A former student writes: It s that time of year when I think of the people who have been important in my life, and you are way on top of that stack. The mentoring you provided has guided me throughout my life. You treated me as a young person of value.

On the ball

Cole inspired his students by example. Dedicated to his work, devoted to his wife Patricia and his 5 children, 23 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren, he illustrates firsthand the benefits of living a good, honest, and active life. Even now he encourages his fellow neighbors at Ashby Ponds to get out and get moving. For the last three years he s worked as a golf starter and player s assistant at the nearby Lansdowne Resort. I work two or three days a week during the playing season, he says. As a starter, it s my job to keep the pace of the game up. On the days I don t work, I try to get out and play at least nine holes. Last fall, Cole organized a golf scramble tournament at Lansdowne for his fellow golf enthusiasts at Ashby Ponds. We had 32 players come out for the event, including Ashby Ponds Executive Director David Gallagher, he says. After nine holes, we returned to Ashby Ponds and had a barbeque and handed out silly awards. Everyone had a great time, and we plan to hold another event this fall. In addition to working at Lansdowne Resort and organizing the golf scramble, Roger also co-chairs Ashby Ponds popular history club, serves as a resident ambassador, attends campus square dances, participates with the woodworking club, and plays water volleyball. Keeping active is my way of life, he says. In the summers when I wasn t teaching, I ran a certified swimming pool and coached tennis. We always kept our children busy with activities. Coaching and teaching physical education enabled me to share the benefits of keeping active with hundreds of students. It s a lesson that lasts a lifetime.